By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC

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The Justice Department, through the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), filed a lawsuit against Louisiana-based companies Technical Marine Maintenance Texas LLC, which provides contract shipyard labor, and Gulf Coast Workforce LLC, a related company, alleging that they violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens during the I-9 and E-Verify process.

According to the Complaint, from at least January 2014 until at least July 2017, Technical Marine asked U.S. citizens to produce List B and C documents, such as a state driver’s license and Social Security cards, respectively. The statistics showed during this period, Technical Marine obtained List B and C documents from 99.56% of U.S. citizens. On the other hand, Technical Marine asked non-U.S. citizens to produce a List A document, such as a permanent resident card (green card) or employment authorization document. The statistics showed during this period, Technical Marine obtained a List A document from 99.29% of non-U.S. citizens.

This is an unusual case because the Complaint alleges Technical Marine discriminated against both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens by their requests for certain documentation. In most cases brought by DOJ, the discrimination occurs through the request and receipt of certain document(s) by non-U.S. citizens while U.S. citizens are free to present any documentation from the Lists of Acceptable Documents. Because Technical Marine asked for specific and different documents from U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, then both actions are alleged as unlawful. Under the INA, all workers, regardless of their citizenship status, must be allowed to choose from among the valid documentation that proves their employment eligibility.

This Complaint is a reminder to employers – do not request specific documentation from employees, regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or non-U.S. citizens. If you do, you may be investigated by the IER of the DOJ. Such investigations are costly and subject employers to civil penalties and back pay if they are found to have committed this type of discrimination or if employers reach a settlement with the IER.